My father graduated from the Naval Academy with the class of 1939. Two uncles and a close family friend were graduates of ’39, ’41, and ’40, respectively. They were career naval officers whom I respected greatly. Although all had retired by the time I was born, because of them, the Academy has always been on my radar. When I was ten, my parents brought me to Annapolis to look around, and I knew it was the place for me.
I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1986 and served as a surface warfare officer, but the rapid drawdown of the early 1990s was career limiting and disappointing, so after five years I decided to try something new.
I went to work in the heavy construction industry, ultimately moving into constructing telecom networks and then consulting, where I became involved in the burgeoning data-center industry. Stints with large technology firms led to my current role as vice president, infrastructure data centers, at a large internet technology company.
In my nearly 20 years in the data-center industry, I have found many parallels to my Navy experience. The high-availability mind-set required for naval service—structured processes, rigorous training, preventative maintenance, logistics—also is necessary to run a complex technical operation like that found in the data-center industry. Over the years, I’ve hired a large number of former military, including naval officers. It doesn’t matter whether they previously knew about data centers—it’s their leadership and technical mind-set that my operation requires.
My attention to military issues and passion for naval history did not stop when I left the service. Proceedings was well-known to me as a midshipman and junior officer, and it’s been a great way to stay engaged even though my day job is not in uniform. It is one of my top two favorite magazines. I start with the feature articles in each issue. Because I read so much online for work, I enjoy the tactile feel and the physical experience of a hard-copy magazine.
I like that Proceedings provides information beyond the traditional naval warfare communities—it’s also for the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and other services—and people can pose interesting questions and concerns. How do you innovate in such a large organization and leverage the technology of the commercial sector for the benefit of the Sea Services? Believe it or not, innovation at scale is a challenge many of us in the technology industry are dealing with.
The discussions in Proceedings and Naval Institute Press books provide a frame of reference when I am thinking about issues in the corporate world. The greatest challenge of my job is running a very technical and mission-critical operation that has grown dramatically as the company has grown. Rear Admiral Dave Oliver’s book Against the Tide: Rickover’s Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy offers helpful context on transforming and running a technical organization at scale. There certainly are differences between missions, but also fascinating similarities that help me imagine options and opportunities for my organization or where we should apply focus.
In Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945, Trent Hone’s discussion of the Navy’s growth parallels that of my organization. The messages of that book are issues I’m still grappling with: the creation of a complex adaptive system that at scale wins the war but now has concerns about innovation at scale.
Today, the family tradition continues: My daughter Paige graduated from the Naval Academy in 2018; my wife, Elizabeth, and I could not be more proud. As a veteran, I understand how hard we train—how much justifiable confidence we have in our abilities, equipment, and technology. This makes it easier for me, as a parent, to be comfortable that Paige has joined a great team and is going to be fine.
Things that resonate with us matter when it comes to our philanthropic goals. I am a Life Member of the Naval Institute and have always been interested in the Navy, naval history, and the Naval Academy. Elizabeth is passionate—and hands on—about raising guide dogs for the blind. We share these interests and support the other’s goals.
Elizabeth and I decided together to participate in the Naval Institute’s new Conference Center. We will sponsor a breakout room that will be named in honor of my father, CAPT Donald Furlong, USN (Ret.). The Institute’s educational mission nurtures the exchange of ideas—I’ve seen this firsthand in both my military and civilian careers—and the new center will be an embodiment of this. We are proud to have the Furlong name associated with this worthy project.